“There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic.”
I’ve always had a deep love for words, for definitions, for labels. When I’d find the perfect depiction of an emotion, it would put me into a state of ecstasy unmatched by the experience of that emotion alone.
There’s something about putting your finger on it, about defining the indefinable, about making the abstract into concrete, little symbols.
In my journey from addiction, self-hatred, and self-destruction to self-love and healing, I began to experience the indefinable. I searched for a definition.
I searched science books, philosophy books, relationship books. Nothing made any sense. I was in the midst of a spiritual awakening, but I wasn’t willing to look at spiritual books. To me, spirituality was out of the question. It just sounded fluffy and awful.
I did the best I could and defined my experiences of oneness and connection to the world as “love.” Although, I was still unsure of this “love” thing. After all, it had sex, romance, and all of those things tied into it—and that is not what I was experiencing.
I started to carry a dictaphone with me everywhere I went, trying to find the answers, until one day, I did. But if you’ve read The Love Mindset, you know that story. Today, I’m here to tell a different story.
It’s a story about how we use words to push each other away, isolate ourselves, and breed judgment.
To me, spirituality is, quite simply, about understanding that we’re all connected at the core. It was this connection to everything that I experienced during my recovery. It was this recognition of interdependent existence with all living things that healed me, nourished me, and enlightened me. This awareness is what I mean by The Love Mindset, and it is this awareness that I think can change the world.
This is nothing new. People have been spreading this idea since the beginning of time. Every great leader has told us to come together because we’re already together. Perhaps that is the definition of truth—something that continues to ring true to people over time.
And yet, throughout time, another thing has happened, again and again. In our pursuit of coming together, we’ve created groups dedicated to coming together that prefer some people over others. We decide to love each other and then judge people who don’t.
Jesus told us to love each other and judge no one. Many modern-day Christians judge and reject non-Christians.
Buddha told us to liberate our minds and detach from our self-definitions. Many modern-day Buddhists define themselves as such and imprison their minds within the discipline.
The madness goes on.
I found this madness within spirituality. I found that, with the label “spiritual teacher,” I began to be immediately accepted and favoured by some people while being violently rejected by others. I faced judgment and love—but for what?
Alas, another mask.
My addictions, my eating disorders, my self-judgment, my IQ, my sad story—these self-definitions isolated me from people. And now, so have my self-definitions as a spiritual teacher, a healer, an awakened person.
I don’t need to wear the tragedy mask to be upset, nor the comedy mask to laugh. Why, then, must I wear the label of “spiritual teacher” to teach spirituality? Even more so, why must I insist on calling it “spirituality” when it alienates so many people who need it?
I realized I had to choose what mattered more to me: connecting to people or defining myself.
I choose to connect to people.
I choose to bring people together.
I choose to understand that, at this time, people are divided and triggered by words.
I choose to see that the labels I put on myself, my message, my work—they all alienate people. They alienate people because I am, first and foremost, alienating myself. I am calling myself something in particular, something that is different from something else.
If the way I’m defining myself, the self that is interconnected, is not ringing true to people—then I’m not defining myself in a way that promotes interconnection.
How, then, to define myself?
This is the good part.
I will do my best to keep teaching this amazing, elusive truth, and I will continue to use the words “love,” “spirituality,” and “oneness” as I see fit. But I will not define myself as a teacher of those things, because I’m not. That’s not what I am.
I’m indefinable. And I like myself that way.
Maybe one day we’ll come up with a word for people who teach us to ourselves. When we do, maybe I’ll call myself that. Maybe.
Until then, I’ll sprout my wings and fly with that special kind of freedom I feel when I shed a limiting label for myself and refuse to replace it with anything in particular.
But that’s just me, my opinion, and my journey. Perhaps, for some, the label “spiritual teacher” brings a freedom that it doesn’t bring to me.
At the end of the day, each of us is responsible not for judging the appropriateness of others’ labels, but for looking at our own and asking, in earnest, “Does this serve me? Does this serve my purpose?”
Even if we do not get answers immediately, it is in the asking of these questions that we truly set ourselves free.
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What about you? What labels will you shed today?